Tensions rise in Hell’s Kitchen as Daredevil and The Punisher trade blows in a season not afraid to ask difficult questions of it’s heroes and villains.
Punisher is a reaction to the Devil of Hells Kitchen, but he’s more than just a mere Devil Worshipper. We’ve seen a similar idea played out before in Nolan’s The Dark Knight and parallels can also be drawn to Civil War; two heroes with opposing viewpoints clashing dramatically. Though one might struggle to call this iteration Punisher a hero, we’ve already seen him shoot up a hospital and shoot Daredevil in the head – I don’t buy for a minute that it was a warning shot.
The second episode of this season starts out the morning after as Foggy desperately tries to find Matt. It’s funny, it’s tense and it’s heartfelt. Matt’s hearing has been affected by the gun shot wound, a reveal that is brilliantly done. It’s scary and puts you completely inside Matt’s head in a way that you can really feel something many of us wouldn’t want to imagine. The sound designers of this show really are it’s unsung heroes and they do thrilling work here. However Matt’s hearing seems to have returned to normal by episode three seemingly reducing that scene to a simple narrative device to be discarded.
With Matt recuperating for much of the second episode, the heavy lifting falls mostly to Foggy and Karen. Luckily the show works just as well as a legal procedural as it does street level heroics with both characters getting stand out scenes. Karen in particular is wrapped with guilt for her actions in season one (and before?), feeling that she needs to be punished. One of the major themes of this season is redemption, so let’s hope she finds it. Though comic fans know Karen has a particularly tragic story should the producers dare tap into it.
We also had another appearance from Melvin Potter. As Gladiator he was one of Matt’s earliest opponents and a costume designer for the good and the bad. We were reminded about Matt’s promise to keep Melvin’s daughter safe here, so is it a promise that can be kept? Will we seem him go toe to toe with the devil or stand beside him? There’s plenty of set up and teases for long standing fans of the characters and something this show does well without anything feeling crowbarred in.
Reyes inevitable betrayal hints at a darker history between her and Frank Castle as the second episode climaxes in a gorgeously shot fight as the Punisher and Daredevil trade blows under fire. The stake are high, the action looks good and billy clubs are cool. A special mention here for Joe Paesano’s score which transcends it’s sometimes anonymous nature with Daredevil’s musical identity becoming more prevalent.
If there is one major issue with the second episode it’s that the cliffhanger is really just a repeat of the first episodes ending. The third episode kicks off shortly after and proves that this show is full of action even when the characters are using words instead of fists.
Frank Castle is a complex hero/villain. He’s happy to buy illegal radios but hard on paedophiles (fair enough). It’s a fractured moral code that isn’t as black and white as he posits. The show also proves that violence implied is just as, if not more, effective. His rooftop conversation with the old man showed us a man with a haunted past, prepared to use violence but conflicted. Jon Bernthal’s Punisher is more human than any we have seen previously but no less deadly because of it, perhaps even more so. A fantastic verbal confrontation between him and Matt is the highlight of the episode, Matt’s desperation to convince him about the power of redemption is gripping stuff. It culminates in a tense scene taken from Garth Ennis’ Punisher epic Welcome Back, Frank.
The show continues to ask tough questions and it’s a conversation that will be had in bars and forums; is Matt right? Does Frank have a point? This is a complex show that lives comfortably in the shadows. (“I’m not a criminal.” “You don’t have a
badge either.”) Matt’s behaviour in the climactic fight shows him just as capable of extraordinary violence, sometimes even gleeful. This show is keeping you on your toes and, as Frank says, Matt is only one bad day away from becoming the very thing he is trying not to be.
The episode also shows us the damage that the Punisher leaves in his wake as Foggy goes to Claire (a wonderful Rosario Dawson) hoping not to find Matt in ER. We get our first nod to the events of Jessica Jones, Claire is paying penance for her actions in that show. (The Nevada chapter of the Dogs of Hell biker gang also previously appeared in Agents of SHIELD continuity fans.)
The Kitchen is tearing itself apart in the wake of Fisk and now the Punisher and Foggy gets yet another killer speech. Karen is less well served in this episode but even she gets a few moments to shine. The second episode gave us a name for this antihero, The Punisher. The third gave us a glimpse of the image that most defines the character, a skull. Slowly our characters are piecing together the mystery of Frank Castle, though, as many of us know it, these reveals aren’t as dramatically satisfying as we might hope.
The final fight in this third episode is the first season’s corridor fight ramped up to eleven. However the effect of the fight is diminished slightly by the not so hidden “hidden” cuts.
Overall, another two great episodes though not without their flaws.
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